- Of all the health tech gadgets I’ve ever owned, one of them has been life changing for me, a meditation device called Muse.
- I’ve been using the new version, Muse 2, for a few months. It offers more types of meditation: mind, heartbeat, breath and stillness.
- This device taught me how to go from anxious to relaxed and sleepy in less than 10 minutes.
I love health tech gadgets. But my infatuation typically fades when the novelty wears off (looking at you, Fitbit).
There’s one device I’ve been using for almost three years that has truly changed my life. And the company recently released a newer version with more features.
It’s called Muse. It’s a meditation sensing device. Muse uses audio feedback to guide you into a super calm, focused state. As you quiet your mind, the feedback – wind/weather sounds – grows quieter until you hear birds chirp.
The updated device, Muse 2, has added a bunch of new forms of meditation: body movement, heart rate sensing, breath sensing. Each one is better than the last.
This device and its accompanying app has taught me how to become truly calm on command, teaching me to go from anxious to settled, still, calm, focused, relaxed and then to sleepy – often in less than 10 minutes and sometimes in less than 5.
I not only sleep better, I sleep better when travelling or in noisy conditions. I can also calm myself if I feel panicky which happens when I’m stressed or overtired.
I’ve been using Muse 2 for a couple of months and I’ve found a whole new level of mental peace.
Muse gives you realtime feedback that teaches you to actually meditate, as opposed to trying to relax with your mind running in the background.
I had taken meditation classes before and thought I knew how to do it.
But the device showed me there’s a difference between sitting quietly thinking my mind was blank, and actually being relaxed and focused.
The feedback is realtime and audio.
You can choose from beach, rainforest, desert or city noises, whatever calms you. The feedback sounds like wind/weather.
When you mind gets more active, the wind gets louder, nudging you relax your body and clear your mind and focus on your breath.
When your mind is truly quiet, you hear birds. There’s a game element, too. You are awarded points for your meditation achievements.
Quieting my mind is easier said than done. Muse offers a series of lessons that helped.
There are introductory lessons on various forms of meditation: quieting the mind, breathing exercises, listening to your heartbeat, sitting in stillness.
You can also do a few meditation lessons from experts like Deepak Chopra, Dr. Joel and Michelle Levy.
There are two versions of the device.
The original costs $US159 and it only offers one type of meditation: calming the mind. I found this technique the hardest to do well but practicing it had the biggest impact on my life.
The second device, Muse 2 costs $US249.
It offers four types of feedback meditations.
Muse 2 can do more because it includes more sensors.
They both track EEG brain signals. Muse 2 also takes your pulse and has a movement sensors. So it can track your heartbeat, your body movement and breath.
One of my favourite new meditations was the body meditation.
It teaches you to sit still.
Sitting perfectly still sounds hard but wasn’t.
As I focused on being still, my body got super relaxed. I could go from awake to relaxed to sleepy in five minutes.
I also really liked the heart meditation.
With this meditation, you listen to a drumbeat and some calming music that represent your actual heartbeat.
As I focused on relaxing my body, my heart slowed down, and I felt peaceful.
This was, however, the sensor I had the most trouble with. The device holds a charge for a week or more, but this sensor didn’t want to work if the device wasn’t nearly fully charged.
This is one of the drawbacks of relying on a device to help you meditate. It can become a bit of a crutch and if it’s not charged, you are out of luck. Muse takes a couple of hours to fully charge, but most of the other meditations worked fine if the battery got low.
Still, I found the heart meditation the easiest to master as this chart shows.
The spike shows me wiggling around at the beginning before I settled in and a few spikes when I fidgeted. But I found it surprisingly easy and calming to listen to heart-rate drumbeats.
Breath meditation was the last one I tried.
I had a lot of trouble getting the sensors for this one to work at first.
Breath meditation relies on both the motion sensor and the heartbeat sensor. It took five tries, adjusting the device each time, before the device could detect both sensors.
These problems raised my level of frustration before meditating!
But once I got it working, it now works more consistently, as long as the device has a lot of juice. If I can’t get it work, I do a different meditation and charge it before I try again.
However, once I started practicing breath, I found it to be both relaxing and energizing.
Breath meditation involves breathing in and out to a beat: 4 beats for the inhale, 6 for the exhale. Breathing exercises have been proven to both relax and energize.
Doing this with my normal shallow breaths calmed me. Doing this with somewhat deeper breaths energised me.
If my breaths were too deep, I got a little dizzy, so it definitely took focus and practice. Adding a pause at the end of each deeper breath worked best.
Muse tracks your meditation performance. And this is its secret sauce.
If I think my mind is clear and I’m relaxed, or I’m breathing slowly enough, but the device says I’m not, why argue?
When the feedback tells me I’m not really meditating, I know to work on relaxing more. Sometimes I use a mantra, slowly thinking of words like “Relax. Let go.”
And it works. When the feedback tells me I’m doing it right, I experience whole new levels of calm and relaxation.
If the device is out of juice, you can also use the app on its own.
Without the device, you can still do a timed meditation listening to your favourite meditation sounds.
This isn’t really an alternative to apps like Calm or Headspace. The Muse app works best with the device.
But, doing timed meditations when the device was dead taught me something spectacular!
Muse trained me to associate these sounds with relaxation, so I can now simply listen to beach or rain sounds on Spotify and relax. I do this with a pair of sleeping headphones and I can drift off to sleep, even when the room is noisy (traffic sounds, unfamiliar hotel room, snoring husband).
I am not dependent on the device to meditate or relax because Muse taught me how to get myself into a relaxed state. I now fall asleep faster and I sleep better.
Is Muse 2 worth $US250 compared to $US150 for Muse original? Yes.
Meditation classes, group meditation or guided meditation apps (such as Calm) can be useful.
But none of them tell you if you are really releasing all the tension from your body or if your mind is as quiet as it could be.
The original Muse did this for me and it was life changing.
But mind meditation was, and still is, the hardest one for me to do. On days when I just couldn’t quiet my mind, and the feedback told me so, my session left me feeling frustrated, not relaxed.
I now tend to stack two or more different meditations together. Doing 5 minutes of body or heart beat before a mind meditation helps me turn off my mind faster and achieve deeper levels of relaxation than ever.
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